If I could change one thing about HR…
I would dismantle the Human Resources department and rebuild it as a Talent Acquisition and Retention (TAR) department. To do this, the majority of the current day-to-day tasks performed by HR would be allocated to managers across the organization.
In my experience, the role of the HR department within most organizations today includes the following broad responsibilities:
- Ensure compliance with the ever-changing employment law regulations.
- Manage administrative functions with respect to onboarding, performance reviews, and separations (though only tangentially involved with hiring and firing decisions).
- Advise on compensation plans and facilitate the payroll process.
- Research and present opportunities for training and development to management and leadership.
- Mediate employee disputes that cannot be managed by the direct manager.
With the more progressive and larger organizations, leaders in HR are also responsible for developing long-term talent acquisition strategy and advising corporate leadership on items such as site selection and productivity planning.
As was well-researched and documented by Jim Collins in Good to Great, the principle of “first who, then what” is key to the success of any organization. In fact, it’s likely to be the single most important factor in a company’s ability to be great. As such, it deserves a department of its very own. If the TAR (formerly HR) leadership and staff were free to focus exclusively on the talent within an organization, every single role within that company could be optimally staffed. That is, staffed with highly engaged, highly qualified, and highly productive employees. It stands to reason that this would decrease the rate and costs of employee turnover helping to increase profitability. But it would also do much more.
Companies with engaged employees are better able to respond to changing market conditions and be more innovative.
Unfortunately, the reality of today’s HR department leaves relatively little time to focus on this, except for a very few key roles. The result is a high-efficiency, low-touch approach to fitting the skill sets of applicants with the job functions of open positions. While this process provides serviceable employees to help maintain the status quo, it doesn’t lend itself to examining each role in depth, or to taking the time to assemble the very best pool of candidates possible.
If we follow this line of thinking further, one of the obvious questions is who will perform the range of activities not related to talent acquisition and retention, currently managed by the HR staff. I have a very good answer, if not a simple one: primarily, by the supervisors and managers all across the company. Why not have those responsibilities managed thusly:
- Compliance with employment law regulations: COO or VP/Director of Operations. Following workplace regulations is normally already under the larger umbrella of operations. But as a highly undesirable task, it has often been pushed off to HR managers. In my experience, this is one area that gives even the most experienced HR leaders heartburn, as the consequences of missteps are often swift and severe. Let the lawyers handle it, and the operations folks worry about it.
- Administration of hiring and firing: Direct supervisors and managers. As the people most affected by and having the most affect on these decisions, managers and supervisors should have the training to manage the paperwork associated with hiring staff, managing their performance, and documenting separations. In small companies where there is no HR office, managers are doing this every day.
- Compensation and payroll: Controller/accounting. Let the money people be responsible for ALL the money. Again, this is another function under the larger umbrella of operations that is often pushed to HR managers to oversee and advise on. If the controller wants input on compensation plans for employees, why not work with those employees’ managers?
- Training and development: Direct supervisors and managers. Give the leaders of each team and department the autonomy and budget to identify and provide training opportunities that will help their staff be more productive. The results of training should have the most impact on the success (or failure) of the manager or supervisor, so why not allow them to oversee these functions?
- Mediation: Indirect supervisors and managers. Okay, so this one is a little sticky, as employees often want “non-partial” or “third party” personnel to be involved with conflict resolution. Perhaps this could be attained through assigning managers as mediators for issues involving other departments, or maybe you can have a committee made up of both managers and employees from multiple departments who would be responsible to hear and mediate conflicts.
The bottom line is that SOMEONE has to be focused solely on defining, finding, attracting, and retaining the right people for every role within an organization; and the larger the organization the more people are needed to support these activities. Let’s turn HR into what it always should have been – a department that focuses exclusively on making sure your company has the best people to help you grow.
Thanks for listening.